By Matt Wickstrom
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak with Mark Charles Heidinger ahead of Vandaveer’s March 13 show at the Downtown Arts Center in Lexington. We discussed musical beginnings, Lexington ties, ‘The Wild Mercury’, Kentucky pride, and much more.
Matt Wickstrom: How did you first get started playing music?
Mark Charles Heidinger: “Singing along to ‘We are the World’ in the back of my neighbor’s pickup truck. Joking aside, I took piano lessons growing up and lived in a very musical household.”
“I grew up in parts of Lexington and Nicholasville. Family brought me back to Louisville about a year ago. I wanted my kids to be closer to their grandparents.”
MW: How would you say Vandaveer has evolved in the group’s near ten year existence?
MCH: “It started out as just a solo singer-songwriter project. The first record, out in 2007, was primarily just me and my guitar. It grew into a duet with Rosie (Guerin) singing with me, and she’s been a mainstay ever since.”
“We’ve had a revolving door of band members and friends who have helped make Vandaveer what it is now. Our latest record is very much a full band effort. We spent most of our time in the studio recording as a full band, and we’ll be following suit on tour in support of the album.”
“We started out solo on the first record, and now we’re a five-piece on our fifth full length record. Maybe for the next one we’ll bring in a sixth or seventh member to play with us.”
MW: Being from Lexington, what musical ties do you still have to the city and the rest of central Kentucky?
MCH: “Well, all five of our records have been recorded in Lexington. I’ve worked with Duane Lundy for the last 18 or 19 years making records, since my teenage years. Robby (Cosenza) has been a mainstay; J. Tom Hnatow is also a Lexingtonian who plays with us. Justin Craig, who lives in Brooklyn now but grew up in Lexington, has been an integral part of the band too.”
MW: What was the group’s creative mindset like when you hopped into the studio to begin work on ‘The Wild Mercury’?
MCH: “We started out with some stripped down acoustic demos I made, which I honestly thought took on a more solitary tone due to their content. It took a couple production meetings before we hammered out a different approach. It was very much a more laborious process this time around, but in the end we were all very pleased.”
“The process was more false start this time around; you get halfway down the road before realizing you missed a turn, leading you to back up and try again. Those mistakes make you revisit ideas and ultimately come up with something better. You have to take things apart and reconstruct them sometimes to find out what they should be made of.”
MW: How long was the recording process on this most recent go-around?
MCH: “Start to finish it was about two years. Most of the time we had to try to fit in recording sessions between tour dates. We were also in the middle of an album cycle when we began recording ‘The Wild Mercury’, so we were busy promoting that while tracking out our new album at the same time. It certainly made for a challenging exercise in patience.”
“In terms of days in the studio, cumulatively speaking, it was probably a couple of months in studio, but calendar wise it was a couple of years to complete the recording process.”
MW: Vandaveer was just recently announced as part of the lineup for the third annual Moonshiner’s Ball, held in Berea in May. What are your thoughts on being part of a festival so rich with Kentucky music and culture, and being a part of that scene yourself?
MCH: “A lot of good friends of ours put on the Moonshiner’s Ball. It’s a great festival that has really grown in the coupe of years it’s been around. It’s brethren, colleagues and friends.”
“I’m happy to see the resurgent pride in calling Kentucky home. I think it’s important for our state and artists to make their home here, and to participate in a festival that embraces that is extremely heartwarming.”
MW: Thank you for your time.
MCH: “You’re welcome.”
Tickets for Vandaveer’s March 13 show are $10 at the Downtown Arts Center box office, or $12.35 online. Doors for the event open at 6:30pm, with Vandaveer taking the stage at 7.
Check out Vandaveer’s latest album, ‘The Wild Mercury’, below.